The Complete Guide to Baby Shoes

complete guide baby shoesBaby shoes are one of the wonderful things about parenthood… they’re so cute, they’re so tiny, and they’re so… unlikely to fit your baby’s feet. In our boys’ room we literally have a basket filled with pairs of shoes, and of those there are about 3 pairs that actually fit. Until your baby starts walking, he or she doesn’t really need shoes, except for a few limited “special” uses. We’ll walk you through those here, and offer some suggestions about addressing common baby shoe problems along the way.
Crib Shoes for Newborns
Pre Walker Shoes
First Walker Shoes
Toddler Running/Walking Shoes
Baby/Toddler Sandals

Crib Shoes for Newborns

converse baby crib shoes

Converse First Stars Crib Shoes

It’s tempting to put your baby in shoes even at the newborn stage. Truthfully they don’t need them for a number of reasons:

  • Warmth. Footed pajamas or onesies are better, and your baby will be swaddled most of the time anyway
  • Just like with hats, your baby won’t give up until he kicks both shoes off
  • It’s just more loose items to lose in the stroller, car, or nursery.
  • Your newborn is a long way from walking or even crawling, so the feet are the last thing that need protection

That said, the thing about newborn shoes is that they’re teeny-tiny and cute. As long as you don’t expect them to stay on, feel free to put on little shoes and snap a few photos. Or even get those little socks that look like shoes.

Pre-Walker Shoes

As your baby starts to move, roll, and crawl, putting him or her in shoes isn’t a bad idea. It will protect their feet and keep them a bit cleaner while they crawl around, and provide better traction as well. When it comes to choosing shoes for your pre-walker, here are some tips:

  • baby pre walker shoes

    Robeez Pre Walker Shoes

    Baby shoe sizes can’t be trusted. They seem to vary substantially between brands and almost never fit your baby’s feet they way they should. Trial and error is usually how we find a pair that fits, and then sticking with that brand usually keeps the shoe sizes consistent.

  • Laces are overrated. Shoelaces look cute because your baby seems grown-up, but they’re a headache for getting the shoes on and off. Slip-ons are good, but velcro is even better.
  • Shoes are short-lived. Few things grow faster than a baby’s feet, or so it seems. Plan on getting a new pair every couple of months. Hey, I’ll bet shoes for your pre-walker don’t seem as important now, do they?

Baby First Walker Shoes

It’s a special moment when your baby starts making those first hesitant, teetering steps on his own. Once that happens, they seem to improve quickly, and you need to start thinking about first walker shoes right away. First walkers are designed to protect your baby’s tender little feet, of course, but also to provide stability and support. This kind of baby shoe is one where the function might be more important than the appearance.

baby girl shoes

Stride Rite Duckling shoes

Case in point: our daughter was a bit of a late walker (18 months). Her first walker shoes were white in color and rather plain in appearance — both of which seem like poor ideas for a baby’s shoe — but they were Stride Rites. This is a premium brand of baby shoe and it shows: the shoes had a nice wide base, were of solid (leather and rubber) construction, and held up really well despite being worn by a soon-to-be toddler.

Toddler Walking and Running Shoes

When your little one starts walking and running with confidence, you don’t have a baby any more. You have a toddler, and this is a game-changer in many ways. First of all, you need to take your babyproofing up a notch because toddlers can reach new, previously-safe places like tables and countertops.

new balance baby shoes

New Balance running shoes

Second, you’ll need to find a shoe that’s durable enough to withstand a toddler’s rambling lifestyle, while still providing good support and stability.

  • Find a pair of shoes that your toddler wants to wear. This is super important, because it’s at around this age that your toddler starts expressing his or her own desires, and if they want the shoes it’ll go much, much easier.
  • Laces are OK at this stage, but slip-ons are easier. There are few substitutes for laces when it comes to keeping the shoes firmly on your toddler’s feet. However, you add 30 seconds every time the shoes come on or off, and that can be 20 times a day.
  • Get the right size. A shoe that’s too big won’t stay on. A shoe that’s too small will cramp your little one’s feet and might do more harm than good.

Sandals for Babies and Toddlers

Last but not least, I should cover the open-toed-shoe department, namely sandals for babies and toddlers. On the surface it might not seem like a good idea to put your baby in a sandal rather than a regular shoe. Will a sandal offer the same support that a baby tennis shoe does? Probably not. But there are still some things to like about sandals:

  • stride rite sandals for baby

    Stride Rite baby sandals

    No socks required. Whenever your baby needs footwear — for a walk outside, or because something was broken, etc. — it’s always the socks that are the killer. We have a drawer stuffed full of them and I can never find a pair of matching weather-appropriate gender-appropriate socks. That’s one great thing to love about baby sandals.

  • Solid materials. Because your baby’s feet are chunky and haven’t grown much, baby sandals actually offer a fair amount of protection. Most of the foot is covered and they’re generally easy to put on.
  • Wet/dry friendly. A very good occasion to put your baby/toddler in sandals is if there’s a pool, water table, puddle, or other source of water nearby. Damp sandals dry MUCH faster than soaked shoes and socks.
  • Easier to fit. If you have a baby with chunky feet, like my older son, sandals offer a bit more room for that chunkiness to spread around.